4:11PM GMT 21 Dec 2012
Sources close to the former chief whip said Number 10 had to explain why officials had sat on the close circuit television footage for so long and failed to release it before he quit.
Mr Mitchell resigned as chief whip on October 19 after two officers guarding Downing St said he called them “f****** plebs”. He admitted swearing but denies using the word “plebs”.
But a Channel Four television investigation alleged this week that an officer had posed as a member of the public who witnessed Mr Mitchell’s clash with police at the Downing Street gates.
In an escalation in the war of words over the affair, friends said that Downing Street had left him “swinging in the wind” by not earlier releasing the CCTV footage, which could have raised concerns about the police’s account.
Mr Mitchell had not been given access to the footage, which could have partially corroborated his account because it appears there were fewer eye witnesses than the police reported, before he resigned.
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This was despite Cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood viewing the CCTV footage on or around 25 September, when Number 10 received details of an email from a purported witness to the row.
Mr Heywood used the footage to discount claims in the email. However the footage, which was finally broadcast this week, also suggested that some of the police log about eye witnesses could have been mistaken.
Mr Mitchell’s friends are now questioning why this information was only released to him after he submitted a request under data protection legislation in recent weeks.
The row happened on September 19 and Mr Mitchell quit on October 19, three weeks after Mr Heywood had looked at the video.
Do you think Andrew Mitchell should be returned to Government?
Yes, he has been wronged
No, even if he didn't say 'pleb' he still swore at the police
One friend said Downing Street had questions to answer over why the footage was not released while Mr Mitchell was fighting to save his career.
He said: “That is a question you will have to put to Number 10. People have come to the conclusion that he was badly treated, it was an injustice.”
Thirty Metropolitan Police officers are not involved in the investigation. Mr Mitchell is now expected to meet the Met officers after Christmas.
Mr Mitchell is understood to be hoping that the matter is resolved by the middle of next month, and has pointedly not asked for another force to investigate the affair.
A friend said: “We don’t want to slow it down. We reserve the right to appeal it, to register a complaint, but at the moment we are happy for it go ahead under the remote supervision of the IPCC.”
Last night, Downing Street declined to say when Mr Mitchell had been given the video tape. A spokesman said: “He made a request and we gave it to him.”
Number 10 also pointed out that Mr Mitchell resigned after admitting that he had sworn at a police officer during the incident.
Downing Street sources insisted that the Prime Minister had stood by Mr Mitchell for several weeks after the incident, despite repeated calls for his sacking.
"People should remember that the PM backed Andrew over the original incident. Andrew resigned because he lost the support of the party, not the PM." No 10 added that the CCTV footage was "inconclusive."
Separately, it emerged that David Cameron met Andrew Mitchell in Number 10 for secret talks on the “plebgate” scandal this week.
The meeting on Monday came 24 hours before the latest allegations against a police officer became public in a broadcast of Channel Four News.
The Prime Minister spoke to Mr Mitchell in Downing St on Monday, the night before Channel 4’s report was broadcast.
Mr Cameron told reporters travelling with him in Afghanistan: “I saw him in Number 10. I spoke to him and my office has been in contact with him as you would expect, fairly regularly. I thought his mood was very calm and rational given what were very disturbing revelations.”
Until now Downing Street has refused to say whether Mr Cameron had spoken to Mr Mitchell, preferring to state that Downing St has been in regular touch with the former chief whip.
The Prime Minister said Tories had sympathy for Mr Mitchell and praised them former chief whip’s “calm” and “rational” response to the developments.
“I think there is a lot of sympathy for Andrew because the revelation about the email... has shocked quite a lot of people.”
Senior government sources believe Mr Mitchell’s political prospects have improved significantly, potentially opening the door for a return to the government.
The officer, a member of Scotland Yard’s diplomatic protection group, allegedly emailed his local MP, the deputy chief whip, John Randall, posing as a member of the public and corroborated media claims that Mr Mitchell had sworn at police and called them “plebs”.
The officer was arrested on Saturday and questioned on suspicion of misconduct in a public office. He has been released on police bail. A second suspect was arrested yesterday on suspicion of helping the officer.
Separately Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, said that he had confidence in Metropolitan Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe over the affair.
Mr Vaz announced that Mr Hogan-Howe will answer questions about the affair on January 14, when he will be pressed about the plebgate incident.
Mr Vaz said: “I have full confidence in Commissioner Hogan-Howe. He was due to appear at the seminar in Parliament on the issue of leadership and standards in the police. Issues of integrity will also be raised as part of the remit of the Committee's inquiry.
Members of the Committee will be able to raise whatever issues they wish at the seminar including matters concerning recent events.
“If that does not deal with their concerns then Commissioner Hogan will I am sure be asked to appear again before the Committee. He has always been helpful to the committee in our deliberations.
I watched this on Channel News and it definitely looks as though Mitchell is innocent. I see Vaz , a Labour MP is in the limelight again.!!!
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